Commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Myalgic encephalomyelitis is a complex disorder that causes overwhelming exhaustion. This can last up to 6 months and there’s no underlying medical condition that can truly explain it.
This past May 12 was CFS Day around the world, so we wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the condition, the impact it has, and how it can be managed by those who are affected by it.
One of the main things about CFS is that the fatigue caused by it is worsened by any kind of physical or mental activity. However, it doesn’t lessen with enough rest. For those who have CFS, a good night’s sleep is not enough to bounce back up.
That leads to many different issues. Such as difficulty maintaining focus, memory issues, and dizziness, which can get very intense even if body movement is kept to a minimum. The main cause of CFS is unknown, but there are many theories. Some believe CFS is caused by viral infections while others believe it’s due to psychological stress.
How Is CFS Diagnosed?
At this time, there isn’t a single medical test to diagnose CFS. Diagnosis requires many different tests to rule out health issues with comparable symptoms. Essentially, CFS diagnosis is confirmed by a process of elimination.
Once it’s confirmed, treatment is centered around the improvement of symptoms. Relapsing is very likely, so the best plan of action is to treat symptoms.
As you can imagine, CFS symptoms can vary greatly from individual to individual. How severe the symptoms are also changes daily. Some of the symptoms of CFS may include but are not limited to extreme fatigue, memory issues, trouble maintaining focus or concentration, headaches, unexplained joint or muscle pain, and extreme fatigue after mental or physical activity, among others.
How Is CFS Currently Treated?
One of the things that help most when it comes to treating CFS symptoms is lifestyle changes. For example, limiting or avoiding the consumption of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol is always recommended.
Napping throughout the day also becomes out of bounds because patients need to do whatever they can to improve their sleep quality during the night.
Additionally, having a sleep routine can be of tremendous help for people with CFS. When it comes to medication, it’s not uncommon to use neurostimulators that boost dopamine and increase norepinephrine activity.
Recently, there’s advocacy around the use of immediate-release methylphenidate, which has been proven to have beneficial effects and shows potential as a treatment for CFS.
How Therapy Can Help CFS Management
Even though research efforts surrounding CFS have increased, the condition is still very complex. No one has discovered a cause or a cure for it yet. This lack of answers makes it very difficult for people to manage CFS and it’s why the recovery rate is just 5%.
As mentioned before, CFS management relies mostly on lifestyle changes that allow patients to adapt to their symptoms. However, it’s not uncommon for them to experience anxiety, depression, and/or social isolation. For this reason, mental health needs to be a top priority.
Psychotherapy can make a big difference in CFS management because it allows people to keep a record of the symptoms and the effects on their physical and psychological health.
CFS is different for everyone, so people who suffer from it need to find a dedicated doctor that can meet their needs and help them revise their list of priorities.
The way CFS patients allocate their time and energy is very important, so working with a therapist can help them manage priorities a lot better to overcome the burden of the condition.